What factors increase the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease at a relatively early age? A new Brazilian study attempts to answer that question by looking at the influence that schooling and cardiovascular risk factors might have on the age of onset of the illness. “The results of the study sound like a clear recommendation: take good care of your heart, watch out to prevent cardiovascular diseases from developing in order to protect yourself also from early onset of Alzheimer disease,” said Fabricio Ferreira de Oliveira, Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, at the 21st Annual Meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Lisbon, Portugal.
Many of the parameters examined, such as years of education, gender, weight, BMI or waist circumference showed no influence over the age of disease onset. But patients with three or more cardiovascular risk factors seem to have a greater risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 70 than patients with less than three cardiovascular risk factors.
The study involved 32 patients with moderate to severe stages of Alzheimer’s disease. They were recruited from the Behavioural Neurology Section of Hospital São Paulo, Brazil, and divided into two groups: patients whose age of disease onset was under 70 years, and patients whose illness broke out at the age of 70 or later. The patients were assessed for gender, schooling, weight, body mass index, waist circumference and the number of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypercholesterolemia, drinking or smoking.
Cumulative effect of cardiovascular risk factors
The only statistically significant result was found in regard to the cumulative presence of cardiovascular risk factors that were specifically assessed. In the sample tested, these risks had a cumulative effect on the development of symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease at the early age. “Studies with larger samples are required to confirm these findings. But the results already point out the very importance of health promotion. We must not underestimate cardiovascular health in the delay of Alzheimer’s disease onset,” Ferreira de Oliveira concluded.